Struggling to combat overeating? Here are 8 ways to help you eat mindfully.
Volume vegie status
High-volume, high-water, highly nutritious, low-calorie foods – think vegies – can trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten a huge meal.
Research conducted by Pennsylvania State University found that when you gave people the licence to eat as much of these high-volume, low-calorie foods as they could handle, they invariably ate less over the course of a day.
Foods high in water or fibre cause the stomach to stretch and then slowly empty, without bloating and without feeling as though you’re on a restrictive diet.
Eat small pieces
The stomach recognises solids as real food and is not easily deceived by liquid meals.
And solids consumed as small pieces are more satisfying than large ones according to Arizona State University research. In an experiment, subjects ate less of a bagel when it was chopped into four pieces than when they were presented with a whole bagel. Items that already come in smaller sizes, such as nuts, berries, grapes and seeds, may also help you to feel satisfied – possibly due to the steady rate of eating over a long enough period to stimulate leptin, the fullness hormone. Wolfing down a roll doesn’t give leptin time to clue on to the fact that you’ve squared the energy deficit according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
If the thought of feeling overstuffed makes you groan with recognition, mindless eating may be to blame. Eating while focused on something else, otherwise known as mindless eating, can bypass fullness switches, leading to uncomfortable physical sensations of fullness.
“The mindful eating approach is a method that can work to reduce appetite by helping to concentrate on eating slowly and deliberately to enjoy what you’re eating and drinking without distractions,” says accredited practising dietitian Sonya Stanley.
Still can’t stop eating? Try eating more often.
“Eating regularly throughout the day is a good way to manage your appetite,” says Stanley. “Rather than saving up for one giant meal, healthy and balanced eating throughout the day can help you to avoid overeating and better manage your appetite.
“If you enjoy a snack between meals, choose healthy options such as a piece of fruit, vegetable sticks with low-fat dip such as hommus, or raw nuts. These are great pick-me-up foods without the extra sugar and saturated fats of some snacks.”
A landmark Dutch study published in the journal Regulatory Peptides found that women who ate or even smelled dark chocolate had decreased appetites. The subjects, interestingly, also recorded decreased levels of ghrelin – the hormone that stimulates hunger.
Milk chocolate, disappointingly, doesn’t have the same effect according to an earlier study by the University of Copenhagen, which found that people who ate 100 grams of milk chocolate ate more pizza 2.5 hours afterwards than those in the dark chocolate group. Now that’s science!
Using aromatic seasoning such as mint, cinnamon, oregano and grated ginger may reduce appetite. One study found that when people were able to help themselves to their own meal portions, they spooned out five to 10 per cent less of fragrant-smelling dishes compared to blander options.
Capsaicin, found in hot chilli, has mild appetite suppressant properties according to research published in the journal Chemical Senses, and spiciness tends to deter us from overeating.
Beans keep blood sugar steady, which helps to avert pangs. High in fibre – they meet the high-volume, low-calorie rule – they stimulate the appetite-suppressing hormone cholecystokinin, or CCK. Research at the University of California found that men who ate a meal featuring beans had CCK levels twice as high as when they ate a low-fibre meal.
Protein is the most filling macronutrient regardless of source, but whey protein seems to be particularly satiating. Research has found that people who chug a liquid meal containing whey protein consume considerably fewer calories at their next meal than those given a liquid meal with casein protein. Like beans, whey protein also helps to stabilise blood sugar and stimulate hormones that favour a sense of fullness.
NEXT > Kick start your regime with our 10 step guide to clean eating.